On the Christmas Fair
I’ve got a few admissions to make. First, I don’t belong to the snowmobile club here in town. I don’t own a snowmobile. I realize that this is very nearly a capital crime around here, but so far no one has stoned me for it. I have been known, sometimes, to go to the Gold Crest Riders clubhouse on a winter weekend for supper, because it’s cheap and filling. Further, because nearly everything of community interest takes place there–the monthly church breakfasts, the auction in the spring, the turkey pie supper, and the Gold Crest Riders Christmas craft fair–I do show my face there quite a bit. I have even been there for a number of junior high parties, something I don’t recommend for the faint of heart.
My second admission is that I make soap. I’ve made soap for maybe a dozen years, after finding some in a craft shop way back when and thinking I can do that. It’s therapeutic, mixing the living daylights out of the oil and lye solutions; and when skunks find their way into the neighborhood, soaping makes the house smell better. At first soapmaking was a hobby. Then for a while it grew out of control, and I found I had to sell off the product at fairs to get it out of the house–there’s only so much soap you can give away for birthdays and holidays, after all. For several years, the extra income helped pay for things like Christmas presents and heating oil. In the past couple of years I’ve really scaled back the operation, due to the fact that the heathens are now at that awkward age where they participate in everything and don’t yet know how to drive. Still, I take my travelling soap show to the Gold Crest Riders Christmas fair every year, on the weekend before Thanksgiving. I was on the waiting list for a table
at the clubhouse for just about ever, and I’m never giving it up, because I won’t get it back, that place is so packed. Amazing, considering it’s halfway down a dirt road in this town that, for most people, is on the way to somewhere else.
I’ve been doing that fair for more than ten years now. Sometimes the money’s good. Sometimes it’s not so good. Still, it’s two days of crazy company, that’s for sure. Everybody in town wanders through at least once. Some buy. Some just visit. Some come in to join us for lunch. For a long time my table–I always have the same table, in the middle on the back right-hand side–was backed up against my neighbor Rose’s (she had Cub Scout stuff on her table sometimes, PTF stuff sometimes, 8th-grade trip stuff other times: she’s a wildly involved person). For the past couple of years I’ve been back to back with the Historical Society table where they sell Dixmont histories, bicentennial memorabilia, and cookbooks; Donna the wreath lady is across the way. The wood furnace is at our end of the hall, so we’re always toasty, and we’ve got the picture window, so we can
keep an eye on the weather (windy and snow-squally yesterday, sunny and cold today). At the far corner is the display of artwork by Norma Sowers, who designed the signs on Routes 9 and 7 that let people know they’ve entered our fair town.
Perhaps the biggest draw at this fair, though, for many people, is the food. The kitchen is always open. For breakfast there are homemade doughnuts and cinnamon rolls that come hot out of the big range and are oozing with glaze. For lunch, chicken stew, chili, hot dogs, cheese burgers, and the fattest BLTs in the history of mankind (I recommend the BLT on oatmeal bread, toasted on the giant grill). There’s a brisk business in whole pies: apple, blueberry, mincemeat, pumpkin, chocolate cream–I watched a gorgeous cherry pie waltz out of there this afternoon. And of course all the coffee and tea and hot chocolate anyone could drink.
So…I make some money. Or not. But I’m warm, in good company, and I get to eat truly sinful breakfasts and lunches. I get to laugh for an entire weekend. One way or another, it works out.
Just beyond my table at the fair was the display for the Neighbors Helping Neighbors raffle. This fundraiser, in its third year, features 16 baskets of fun stuff, assembled by various neighborhoods in town, which are raffled off with all proceeds going to the contingency fund. I bought 15 tickets for $10, and put them in to win a fishing basket, a sewing basket, a bath & toiletries basket, a games basket, and I can’t remember what else. I never win, of course. But the money goes to a good cause.
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